ECHR rules employer was wrong to monitor private messages

ECHR rules employer was wrong to monitor private messages

Yesterday (5/9/17) there was a landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights who ruled that a worker had his rights breached when his private emails were monitored by his employer without his knowledge. .

This case involved an engineer in charge of sales between August 2004 and August 2007. As part of his role, he was asked to set up a Yahoo Messenger account to handle customers’ queries.

However, in July 2007, his employer informed him that his Yahoo Messenger activity had been monitored and it had been noted that he had been using the internet for personal purposes. The engineer initially denied this but he was then presented with transcripts of conversations with his brother and his fiancée relating to personal matters. He was subsequently dismissed in August 2007 for breaching the company’s internal regulations, which prohibited using company resources for personal purposes.

The engineer, a Romanian national working in England, took action in the Romanian courts. After local judges acted against him, he took his case to the ECHR, arguing that the messages were protected by Article 8 which is the right of respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence.

In a chamber judgment in January 2016, the ECHR ruled by six votes to one that the Romanian courts had struck a fair balance between the engineer’s rights and the interests of his employer.

He had then appealed this decision to the ECHR’s grand chamber who ruled yesterday by 11 votes to six that there had been a violation of Article 8. In particular, the ECHR decided the national courts had failed to properly determine whether the engineer had received prior notification that his messages might be monitored or to what extent.

The judgment also noted that the national courts had failed to consider why the company had deemed it necessary to introduce monitoring in the first place, and whether it could have used measures less intrusive to the engineer’s private life.

Vaishali Thakerar. Head of the Lawson-West Employment department, said that this Judgment does not completely prevent employers from monitoring internet usage but it shows that employers should take appropriate measures to ensure that the monitoring is  appropriate to the aim that is being pursued.

If you are an employer who wishes to monitor your staff’s emails and want to know the correct way in which to do this then please call our expert employment team on 0116 212 1059.

If you are worker and feel that your employer is inappropriately/unfairly reviewing your emails/internet usage then please contact our specialist team on 0116 212 1059.

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